Hotel Review: InterContinental Asiana Saigon – where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City.
My love of staying in hotels is well documented, as is the joy I find in waking in a new destination – an exhilarating buzz that never wanes.
With all this however comes decisions – and for me by far the greatest part of planning is where to stay.
I wax lyrical about staying loyal and the benefits that are consistantly revealed when you are a repeat visitor within a hotel network. Our IHG Rewards Club membership (a loyalty program which is free to join and brings with it a host of benefits) has worked hard for us over the years, the extras make it hard to move away from the InterContinental chain. It helped with the decision of where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City.
After many years of travel and many nights spent in the worlds great cities – for me, as far as hotels are concerned, it is all about the location. I want to be accessible to the action, yet not necessarily with it on my doorstep.
I like to have a little space to relax away from the frenetic energy that comes from exploring a new destination.
Experience has taught me you never quite know what you are getting with a city hotel location until you actually spend time there…one persons perfect location is anothers inconvenience. Having spent time in Ho Chi Minh City (still referred to as Saigon by the locals) – I can suggest that District 1 is where you want to stay. Just a stroll from all this area offers, InterContinental Asiana Saigon is a fabulous oasis in a city that truly never seems to sleep. For what to see and do in Saigon my suggestions will be posted soon.
For where to rest your head, read on…
You could happily spend a week exploring all Saigon and its surrounds has to offer.
In doing so you need not move far from the InterContinental Asiana Saigon as District 1 houses places of historic significance, serious shopping opportunities, more foodie experiences than you will have time for, a myriad of Beauty Spas and rows of the famed tailors for which Saigon is renowned. Set within the hub of activity (across the road from the colonial Post Office and close by Notre-Dame Cathedral), yet a few streets off the main bustle. The result is a hotel that does not feel hemmed in by buildings, unobstructed views across the city are possible from 3 sides of the property.
Within easy walking distance of all attractions (ten minutes stroll to the Opera House), yet convenient for taxis – at approx. AUD$2 to get around the district we found using them made negotiating the nortoriously busy streets less arduous. A tropical ear infection for our Eldest necessitated a midnight dash to the nearby Family Medical Centre (the recommended facility for visiting children). Literally a block away is Diamond Plaza department store, the hotel is connected to a shopping causeway with a minimart (good for all the basic food items and toiletries), ATM’s, Starbucks and Hard Rock Café (although with all other options in the city it is likely you won’t be racing in there – just good to know).
For a large hotel (305 guest rooms) InterContinental Saigon feels more intimate than its size would suggest. Clever use of lighting, high ceilings, furniture nooks and stunning fresh floral arrays combine to create a calming effect.
Why did you visit this property?
Family holiday to Saigon, our first visit to this city.
Was the property easy to book?
I booked direct, however also readily available on many hotel booking websites. Favourable rates could also have been obtained through our Travel Agent.
Approaching the hotel does not reveal an architectural masterpiece (colonial buildings aside, this could be said for many in Saigon). Nevertheless the warm and efficient greeting of the bellboys began our true InterContinental experience.
How was Check-In handled?
As IHG Rewards Club members we were escorted to a dedicated check in desk . This property is run as a well-oiled machine (thanks to the experienced General Manager Mr. James Young at the helm), our details were gathered swiftly, hotel facilities explained and we were whisked to our rooms with the minimum of fuss.
How may we help you (service and staff)?
Impeccable, from start to finish.
I am never afraid to point out the path to improvement, my expectations are thus. If I am going to pack up the family with all it entails I want my Five Star hotel to deliver an experience better than home at the very least; and to receive my Gold Star it needs to never falter in service throughout our stay. As the guest I don’t need to know a staff member is having a bad day or any behind the scenes operating problems (harsh, yet these properties charge according to this expectation of service delivery). The InterContinental Asiana Saigon is worthy of my Gold Star…
Special mention goes to Dennis (Cung Hien Thieu)/Chief Concierge, frequently I mention my use of the knowledge of Concierge desks (local ‘encyclopedias’). Pre-trip I recommend putting in some time to research your destination (the wonderful world of blogs and google makes it a breeze, I am still old school and also enjoy travel magazines and books for inspiration and all the latest). That way you can explain the type of experiences your family is looking for – Dennis read us well and did not get a recommendation wrong.
Ta da – how was the room?
Our family of four has outgrown the more economical option of sharing one room (something the Youngest is thrilled about as he would inevitably be the one sleeping in a makeshift cubby of stacked pillows, under a desk). At 12 years our Eldest is considered an adult in most hotels (and all airlines), therefore we need to book interconnecting rooms or a suite.
We opted for two rooms (and thus more chance to each have some space during our five night stay).
The rooms are spacious with picture windows (an entire wall of glass affords city views, light and a sense of aireness).
Welcome – anyone saying this?
The smiling face of Mr. Chau greets you at the ground floor lift and staff do not let you pass without genuine acknowledgement.
Sleep – bliss or blah?
OMG – I have raved about ‘bed bliss’ before, however I sincerely believe these ensembles take the prize. After busy days of walking (and shopping) we sunk eagerly into bedtime comfort – sleeping like happy babies ‘zzzzzz’.
The brand of bed used is a tightly held secret – I can tell you they uphold all that is consistent with the InterContinental brand (and they have feather toppers). White cotton sheets changed on request (is there anything more luxurious than crisp, freshly laundered cotton). A pillow menu is offered (different fillings, sizes and firmness and alternatives to the duvet).
Unpacking – is there room for everything?
Plenty of space in the entry hall wardrobe, good selection of hangers and drawers. Empty suitcases easily stow away.
WI/FI – techie bright stuff.
Despite advice we received earlier in our holiday, about a broken communication cable to Vietnam – the InterContinental Asiana Saigon WI/FI was extremely efficient and available throughout the hotel (inclusive of pool and gym areas).
Free WI/FI for IHG Club members = happy tweens.
Made to feel at home (robes, bottled water, tea/coffee).
A pet hate of mine is terry robes, I find them too bulky to be comfortable, I therefore travel with a silk robe of my own. However this property provided waffle weave cotton robes, comfortable to wear to the pool and cool for lounging in the room. Comfy slippers. Abundance of complimentary bottled water. Good tea and coffee selection (we fell in love with Vietnamese coffee, probably consuming more than was good for us…). Complimentary newspapers delivered daily.
The stand out was the nightly turndown service, offered upon request. A different card left each evening, Sweet Dreams Good Night Saigon, a message with a cultural highlight – the boys were gifted a delightful wooden Dragonfly keepsake on our last night.
Keeping it clean – bliss or blah (amenities, decent hair dryer)?
My first port of call in a hotel bathroom is the amenities; I have spoken before how the scent of a lovely product (smuggled home) can later evoke wonderful holiday memories. Agraria products are used throughout the hotel, smelling divine and most importantly they do their job…(too many tangled hair experiences with hotel conditioners, this one left my locks silky smooth and frizz at bay). My only complaint is the hair dryers, not particularly powerful. In the summer heat it was more comfortable to let my hair dry naturally, however if I was travelling for business I would bring my own.
Market 39 (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Our room rate included breakfast and I would suggest you aim for the same. Having eaten my way through more buffets that I care to recall, this one is truly memorable. The restarant is located on the bustling side of the hotel – the morning traffic whizzes down Ha Bung Trung Street as you decide which end of the buffet to begin. Traditional offerings of Pho (say… ferr) – a chicken or beef based stock soup with vegetables and meat is a hearty and healthy option. Japanese, Chinese, Continental, fresh juices, French pastries, a large selection of fruits, freshly made eggs (style of your choice), waffles, grills – honestly this meal and dinner is all we needed each day.
For a large room, the layout is clever and the restaurant is divided by tropical greenery into sections – combined with the use of full-length picture windows, it is a great way to start the day (I judge an outlet by it’s coffee – Market 39 delivered great Long Blacks and fabulous Vietnamese coffees, to which I am now addicted).
The boys tucked into the kid’s menu (Planet Trekkers) almost daily. The buttered corn on the cob a great snack and reasonable at AUD$5 per serve (relative to most other five star hotel options for kids). Ditto poolside drinks for Mum and Dad.
Long days of sightseeing left the boys often too tired to dine out, preferring the room service option. They ate their way through burgers, pasta and Vietnamese soups – declaring all very good. Servings were large and could actually have been shared.
Yu Chu (Lunch and Dinner)
The Eldest and Dad enjoyed the signature Chinese restaurant Yu Chu for dinner, they reported it was superb and their only regret was we ran out of time to revisit the experience…(the youngest and I went to the Opera House for the evening).
The Library (off the Lobby, for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner), Purple Jade (Bar), Basilico (housed in the adjacent Residences apartment building).
For US$60 per person per room per night (or US$70 for two people), guests can opt to upgrade to Club InterContinental, affording rooms on Floor 19 and above and full use of the Club Lounge. The Lounge is a luxurious series of rooms (media room, library, main lounge) – breakfast is included as is canapés and evening drinks. A meeting room can also be pre booked if required.
Action/Relaxation – what activities were on offer?
The outdoor swimming pool is a cool, inviting oasis. Plenty of comfy lounging chairs, voluminous yellow and white towels, great poolside service.
Local residents can purchase Gym memberships, I find when this is the case facilities and staff are exceptionally professional and equipment extensive. In addition Yoga classes (from Ashtanga to Hatha) are offered.
When a hotel has an award-winning Spa you know it is going to be excellent…
Offering blissful, peaceful Mama (and Dad) time – treatment rooms are oh so tranquil and I wanted to move in for the duration of my stay. Considering the reputation and location, prices are reasonable (from AUD$90 for a 80 minute massage).
Would I stay at this property again?
Without hesitation, and if you find yourself in Saigon with kids (or indeed for any reason) you should too.
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## In the interests of disclosure;
The Urban Mum was extended a Media Rate for the duration of her stay (she paid for her room and expenses, just at a reduced rate) – this included breakfast in the most excellent Market 39 (which she would pay through the nose for and walk on hot coals just to experience one more time…).